If you thought you’d finally picked your favorite King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard album (or at least narrowed it down to your top ten), don’t get too cozy. The prolific band’s newest concoction, Infest the Rats’ Nest – their second record this year, due for release tomorrow – will vie for space at the top of your list. That is unless you’re fiercely opposed to the genre of metal, in which case, welcome to the alternate universe in which you’re obsessed with it. While Infest the Rats’ Nest draws “on the mid/late 1980s golden period of thrash metal – Metallica and Slayer, certainly, but also lesser-cited bands such as Exodus, Kreator and Overkill” according to the press release, King Gizzard have really created their own metal subgenre. If I’m In Your Mind Fuzz and Nonagon Infinity are venerated masterpieces in your household (hello, person of fine taste), you’re going to lose your mind over this one. Hints of both those albums and other familiar sounds from the Gizzverse sneak in and out of this face-meltingly heavy, prescient trip.
Musically, Infest the Rats’ Nest sharply contrasts Fishing for Fishies (the first album they bestowed upon us this year), but thematically, the two seem to exist in the same reality. Remember the plastic coming to kill us in “Plastic Boogie,” and the dying bees in “Acarine”? Such human-enacted terrors have already come to be in “Planet B.” Infest the Rats’ Nest predicts the downward spiral of our present environmental catastrophe with such vivid lyrics, you get the feeling they’ve cracked the code on a time machine and visited this near-future hell themselves. As Stu Mackenzie explained in the press release, “We’ve got a lot of things to fear…I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of humanity and the future of Planet Earth. Naturally, these thoughts seep into the lyrics.” A heavier approach makes sense for this gut-wrenching, vital subject matter, and while they sound like seasoned thrashers on Infest the Rats’ Nest, Mackenzie has been open about the newness of the genre for them. “We couldn’t have made this record until this year,” he explained. “We’ve had this progression of records influenced by heavy metal, but they’ve never been heavy metal. It’s been this energy we’ve never learned how to play, because we learned to play from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.”
If you’ve been blasting the “Planet B” single as often as we have, you’ll notice right away – probably via heart palpitations – that there are some killer tweaks to the production on the album version; there seems to be a new layer of unhinged urgency shimmering within the guitar parts, and the tempo even seems to be about 2 bpm faster (keep me honest, fellow Gizzheads). When an era-defining opener like that is followed by a cruelly cool groove like “Mars For The Rich,” you can already sense how much Gizzardy badassery is squeezed into this record. From the perspective of a poor boy, the prophetic second track describes how only the wealthy are able to escape the ecological crises on earth and move to Mars for a better life. The chorus drones, “Mars for the privileged / Earth for the poor / Mars terraforming slowly / Earth has been deformed,” and if you somehow weren’t already, you’re buried in the story now. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard explore this hyperrealistic dystopia at such lengths, their lyrics even dip into the scary territory of “Organ Farmer.” With sick lines like “Counting coins / Counting stem cells” and gnarly sounds that make the hairs on your neck stand up just as quickly, this banger analyzes the profession of growing and selling human organs.
If you said “Superbug” is your go-to song on Infest the Rats’ Nest, we’d definitely clink glasses with you, although it’s pretty damn hard to pick favorites. This infectious freak-out is a slow-rolling explosion built upon a simple foundation that demands repetition. Now hitting on pharmaceutical disasters, the lyrics detail an unstoppable disease and the body’s resistance to antibiotics. “Should’a used phages / Instead you took ages” refers to the slow research into bacteriophages, viruses that target and kill bacteria. If “Superbug gave a shrug / And ate all your prescription drugs” sounds intense, wait until you hear “Venusian 1” and “Venusian 2,” which tell the tale of rebels leaving earth in an attempt to make Venus inhabitable. Between them live the vicious riffs of “Perihelion,” a song that contains one of the most frighteningly accurate depictions of global warming in existence: “Melting humans and everything they bring / In a blink, the sun will drink their things / Grinning sun has sinners for dinner.”
Perhaps the greatest twist comes with “Self-Immolate” – the hero has successfully made it to Venus, against all odds, but he’s now consumed with the urge to “auto-cremate.” Mackenzie recently explained that “Self-Immolate” is about “jumping onto the surface [of Venus] and turning into a ball of flames.” There’s no better way to drive home the point that humans are already being equally destructive; is our current global warming calamity any different than setting ourselves on fire? After that inferno, it only makes sense it would all end in “Hell,” in which the headbanging momentum boils over enticingly. Even though you and the boys have traveled far, it’s one of those red-hot album closers that makes you think, “Hey, wait! Is that it?” and promptly want more.
Another feeling you might encounter while spinning Infest the Rats’ Nest is an extreme craving to see King Gizzard live, paired with a vision of what that mosh pit might look like throughout the album’s many peaks and scorching breakdowns. We’re psyched to see where their setlist might venture during their upcoming show at Central Park’s SummerStage in NYC on August 28th (there’s still time to grab tickets here) – not to mention watch a sea of bodies rocking to bloodthirsty beats like these. Even more so than usual, the awesome album cover from epochal KGATLW artist Jason Galea seems to separate Infest the Rats’ Nest as its own thing, with its own special golden rat-skull iconography and lore. One can infer from their recently-wiped Instagram page – all of their posts were deleted in June before they restarted with rats – that King Gizzard also view this album’s arrival as a key piece of their history. They simply put out too much cool stuff too quickly for us to commit to Infest the Rats’ Nest being one of their very best – but at this moment in time, it has certainly earned a place on the top shelf.
Article: Olivia Isenhart